"It wasn't meant to be but it was a lot of fun out there. There was a lot of emotion on that field. You live for those moments."
The New York Giants breached the Steelers' 10-yard line three times in the first half and came away with only two field goals.
In the second half, the Giants again had a first down inside the 10, and again the Steelers held them to a field goal. The fifth time, though, the Giants scored a touchdown to beat the Steelers and their collapsible offense, 21-14.
While the Steelers couldn't block Mathias Kiwanuka, or -- except for two plays – even move the ball, the defense was – to take a word from Coach Mike Tomlin – "awesome."
It started when Aaron Smith walked into the locker room after missing all week for personal matters.
"A huge emotional lift," said Hoke. "When he came in, I got a little extra fire in my rear because the guy's an unbelievable player."
Hoke believes that emotion carried into the Steelers' first of two true goal-line stands. The Giants had a first down at the Steelers' 2-yard line early in the second quarter. On the first play, with 264-pound Brandon Jacobs in the backfield, Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride called a pass and James Harrison pressured Eli Manning into an incompletion. Gilbride called another pass on second down, which was incomplete, but LaMarr Woodley jumped offsides.
With the ball moved to the 1-yard line, Jacobs ran behind his right guard and was tackled by Ryan Clark. On third down, Jacobs thought he scored, but instant replay reversed the call and the Giants tried again on fourth down. Clark and Larry Foote were credited with the stop as the Steelers held their 7-3 lead.
"We knew they were going to pound it," said Keisel. "They have a good offensive line and a good back and we knew they were going to pound it."
The Steelers "stood up" again, as Hampton put it, early in the fourth quarter. A fourth-and-6 deep ball to Amani Toomer for 30 yards put the Giants at the Steelers' 4-yard line. Running back Derrick Ward hurdled William Gay but was plastered by Keisel for a loss. The Giants were done trying to blow down that brick wall, so they threw two incomplete passes and kicked a field goal. The next time the Giants reached the 2-yard line, they threw a touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Boss for the game-winner.
Overall, the Steelers held the NFL's top-ranked running game to 83 yards rushing on 35 tries for an average of 2.4 yards per carry. The Giants came into the game averaging 5.6 per carry.
"It was all these guys playing physical," Hoke said. "We heard all week about how good their offensive line was, and we took that personal. We had to shut down their run, and for the most part we held the run in check."